Friday night gives No. 4 USC and No. 12 Utah the chance to shine in the national spotlight as the two meet in a highly anticipated rematch of their regular-season thriller in the Pac-12 Championship Game. The Trojans are seeking to avenge a 43-42 loss at Utah from Oct. 15 that remains their only blemish under first-year coach Lincoln Riley, while the Utes are seeking back-to-back conference titles.
If the Trojans win, they will likely be headed to the College Football Playoff for the first time in the CFP era. It would also mark the Pac-12's first CFP berth since Washington reached the four-team field in the 2016 season. Utah does not have CFP aspirations, but the Utes would be the first program to repeat as league champion since Stanford did it in 2012-13.
While there is plenty at stake for both teams, there will likely be a third fan base watching anxiously. It stands to reason that if the Trojans lose, then No. 5 Ohio State would have a shot at jumping USC for the fourth spot in the CFP field when the final rankings are revealed Sunday. The Buckeyes ceded control of their own destiny when they lost at home to Michigan last week, so now their hopes lie in a Utah victory.
The first meeting between USC and Utah was a classic, and it would be no surprise if this one comes down to the wire as well as conference championship weekend kicks off.
How to watch USC vs. Utah live
Date: Friday, Dec. 2 | Time: 8 p.m. ET
Location: Allegiant Stadium -- Las Vegas
TV: Fox | Live stream: fuboTV (Try for free)
USC vs. Utah: Need to know
Last time around: When the Utes outlasted USC in October, the game featured over 1,100 yards of total offense, including a combined 10 touchdowns -- seven passing and three rushing -- and no interceptions from the quarterbacks. It was Utah's Cam Rising who got the last laugh over USC star Caleb Williams, though. Rising scored on a 1-yard touchdown run with 48 seconds left and then converted a 2-point conversion run on the ensuing play to put the Utes ahead. Williams and the Trojans got the football back for a last-gasp chance at reaching field goal range in the final seconds but couldn't do it.
USC fell to No. 10 in the AP Top 25 the following day with its margin for error removed in relation to its postseason goals. But since then, the Trojans have won five straight, including wins over ranked foes UCLA and Notre Dame the past two weeks. Since beating USC, Utah's only loss is a 20-17 defeat at Oregon on Nov. 19.
Caleb Williams for Heisman: Williams has emerged as the favorite for the Heisman Trophy as a sophomore. The Oklahoma transfer who followed Riley to USC has terrorized opponents on the ground and through the air this season. With 34 touchdown passes compared to just three interceptions, and another 10 touchdowns on the ground, Williams is showing why he was consensus five-star prospect in the Class of 2021. Take last week's performance against Notre Dame, for example. Even though he finished with under 300 yards of total offense in the Trojans' 38-27 victory, Williams singlehandedly kept several plays alive with his improvisation and elusiveness and totaled four touchdowns while guiding his team to a big win.
High stakes: This is USC's third time appearing in the Pac-12 Championship Game since the league began hosting one in the 2011 season. But the stakes have never been higher for the Trojans. When USC played Stanford in the 2015 Pac-12 Championship Game, the Trojans had already lost four games and were well outside the CFP picture. They lost 41-22 and wound up in the Holiday Bowl on their way to a final mark of 8-6. In 2017, USC was 10-2 and without a realistic path to the CFP when it beat Stanford 31-28 and wound up losing to Ohio State in the Cotton Bowl.
USC vs. Utah prediction, picks
USC had to grind for a 38-27 victory over Notre Dame last week while Utah coasted to an easy win at Colorado. On a short week and in a game between two evenly matched teams, wear and tear could be a factor. Utah won the first meeting by a point on Oct. 15, and the Utes have experience on this stage as the reigning Pac-12 champions. While beating the same team twice in a season can be tough, Utah did it last season against Oregon. The Utes can do it again as they take on a USC team that remains shaky defensively and overly reliant on an uncanny ability to force turnovers. Prediction: Utah +3
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